I have accepted the mission, set by my curiosity in my fellow human, to re-read the bible. My goal is to try to understand why its legions of followers have dubbed it the “Good Book.”
Now, I have read it before, though it was a long time ago. I read the entire book—cheating a bit by skipping all the “begats” portions—when I was going through confirmation when I was about 11. We were instructed to read the bible, and so I did. It did not take long before the overwhelming details of god commanding death, war, genocide, rape, slavery, torture and otherwise doing or ordering his followers to do some decidedly evil shit that I decided there was a problem. I went to my pastor with questions, and he said to read the bible, as it would answer my questions, so I pressed on.
Long story short, I read it, had ten times more questions at the end than I had early on when I questioned him, the paltry answers I got were in no way satisfying, and ultimately I realized none of what I’d been told in church or read in the bible made any sense.
TL;DR: Read bible –> become atheist.
So why read it again?
On the one hand, I want to read the bible again to read it as an adult rather than as a child. When I read it the first time, I had barely passed into the “age of reason” and at that age the Lion King and Star Wars were the most spiritually reasonable things I could imagine. I don’t expect the content to have changed, but I certainly have… though Star Wars is still pretty damn important to my daily life.
On the other—and more motivating—hand, the bible is theoretically intensely important and central to the lives of a huge portion of humanity. Both around the world and here at home in the U.S., the various flavors of christianity are a massive portion of the population. I am at once curious and at the same time terrified that so many people can apparently look at a book depicting what that book depicts, and yet still call it good.
The bible, in its copious iterations, is the source material for the world’s most populous religion: christianity. According to a 2012 Pew Research survey of the religious landscape of the world, christianity (which includes catholics, protestants, mormons, christian scientists, and other non-denominational groups self-identifying as “christian”) represents 32 percent of the world’s population. The bible is theoretically the cornerstone to the beliefs of one third of the earth’s population.
In the U.S., the percentage is even more staggering. According to another Pew Research study, 73 percent of the American people—almost three-quarters of the population—are some flavor of christian. To add to that, the religious composition of the current (113th) Congress is a whopping 90.4 percent christian.
Given these religious affiliations, their proportions, and what that means for the culture and society I live in, it seems like a solid argument for refreshing my familiarity with and better understanding the core literature of this religion. I hope in doing so to better understand people around me and how their minds work.